Getting muddy with your kids 1
There’s growing research evidence that exposure to nature is essential for children, and that it improves mental health and cognitive and social development. In other words, your children will be cleverer, happier and more balanced if you get them outdoors more! Fortunately, that’s easy to do.
Here are a few ideas…
Go for a walk. . .
This might seem a bit obvious but it has some big advantages. It’s free, it’s not complicated and it’s a great introduction to outdoor activities for children, and families, who may not be used to being outdoors. Your children will model your behaviour, so if they see you getting excited about going outside, they will too.
One idea is to make it an adventure, rather than a walk. Talk about where you will go with the children, and let them decide if you can, remembering to make sure you pick something that’s age and ability appropriate. (coming home with the mountain rescue isn’t fun). This is a great way to introduce younger children to the idea of weather (what shall we wear?) and older children can be put in charge of expedition planning and resources (food, water, other supplies).
Once you are on your walk children can get bored, especially if they are used to constant stimulation. One idea we use a lot is Tracking and Trailing.
How to track and trail
Decide who will Trail and who will Track (you get to swap roles, so don’t fight!)
The Trailers set of first and lay a (guess what?) trail of arrows using only natural materials
(draw them in the mud, use sticks or stones, whatever you can to keep the trackers on course. Remember only to use dead materials – don’t break branches off trees! You can be sneaky of course and send them in circles, but eventually (when you are tired) you want to find a place to…
Make a circle with a cross and put a stone in it.
That’s the sign you are a stone’s throw away. Then….
Wait to be found and swap group roles.
This is a good way of energizing kids, who will love running ahead either laying or looking for a trail. They need to concentrate either way, and then be quiet when hiding. You can talk about how animals have to follow trails and about the important of stealth whene tracking and of keeping quiet and camouflage when hiding.You might want to see if you can find animal tracks, or practice ‘Stealth Walking’ (a stealthy way of walking) or even camouflage yourselves to make it harder to find you, or to see you if you are sneaking up.
But most of all it’s fun, and everyone ends up happy, involved and out of breath.